In case you missed it from Wednesday, the Omaha World-Herald's Tom Shatel caught up with former Ohio State stars Troy Smith and Maurice Clarett, who both are trying to resurrect their pro careers with the UFL's Omaha Nighthawks.
Both Smith and Clarett didn't hold back in their thoughts about the state of college athletics, NCAA violations, Ohio State and their former college coach, Jim Tressel.
Here's some of what they had to say ...
Smith on the culture around the OSU program: "The school shouldn't be so popular. The school shouldn't want to win as bad as it does. It comes along with the territory. Then you as a university, apply a different set of rules for these guys, because it's not going to stop. It's college football everywhere. ... To me, you would literally be taking away from your time in your job to police as many people as you have to police. There's hundreds of [boosters] at all times. Even if [athletes] got paid, they would still go after it. It's a Catch-22. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. As much as people want to paint the picture that it's goody two shoes, it's not. My school is underneath the microscope right now. The best way to get them out is to tell the truth."
Clarett on Tressel: "I don't believe he was trying to cover anything up. This man goes into people's homes and understands where [recruits] come from, understand they don't have mothers and fathers. He's responsible for what happens to your sons. That transcends the NCAA, transcends the university. Gene Smith should have gone to him and they should have figured something out. But to act like he was trying to do something bad, that's wrong. He actually cared about the people. I believe Gene Smith knows the truth. And I can pretty much leave it at that."
Smith on Tressel: "There's no doubt he was wronged. I don't know how many college coaches would jump on the sword for somebody else's kids, like he did. Obviously, it wasn't just a recruiting tool when I came to Ohio State because he did it for hundreds of other kids. The only thing I feel emotions about is Coach Tressel."
Smith on his suspension in 2004-05: "To tell you the truth, it had nothing to do with a $500 thing between myself and a booster. I took the rap for a lot of people so a lot of people wouldn't get in trouble. But that story can't be told unless I want to get back at a lot of people. I'm not that type of guy. Never will."
While it's not surprising to see both Clarett and Smith defend Tressel, Clarett's line about Gene Smith is sure to raise some eyebrows. Is he suggesting Gene Smith knew more about the situation than he let on? Did Tressel take the fall for others in the athletic department? From talking to folks around the Big Ten, Clarett wouldn't be the only one who felt this way.
Troy Smith also called himself the "scapegoat" for Ohio State and the NCAA. He suggested, as many believe, that Ohio State's off-field problems weren't limited to a few individuals.